City Arabesque

by Berenice Abbott

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Artist Statement

Shot in 1938 as part of her Changing New York series for the Federal Art Project (FAP), City Arabesque epitomizes Berenice Abbott’s fascination with architecture and urban planning. Beyond being a creative pursuit, Changing New York was a sociological study of the built environment. Abbott believed that the habitats we construct say as much about humanity as our faces and bodies.

Abbott’s chronicles of New York focus on progress and the—at times alarming—speed at which the city was becoming engulfed in new architecture. City Arabesque peers out from the roof of 60 Wall Street Tower over a sprawling gray city without a soul in sight. The urban landscape has seemingly taken over, a phenomenon incited by the collective behavior of the city’s inhabitants but now flourishing with a mind of its own.

Why We Love It

Abbott saw New York City through its architecture—quite literally, in the case of 1938’s City Arabesque, peering between architectural ornamentation at the densely packed buildings below. The overlapping arabesque lines of the barrier on the roof of 60 Wall Street Tower compose a curved framework, incongruous against the angular city grid below. This chaotic dissonance echoes the disorienting, vertigo-inducing angle from which Abbott shot City Arabesque. The result is a deeply absorbing feeling of flux. Abbott saw New York City for all its magnificent volatility, its perpetual growth and change, and the destruction and creation that came (and comes) with it. The Big Apple of Abbott’s eye prioritized expansion and evolution over all else, as exemplified by its constant architectural upheaval. Leave it to Abbott to convey this change in a way that was at once dizzying and exciting, frightening and beautiful ... Read more on the blog!

Details

+ Limited-edition, exclusive to 20x200
+ Museum quality: archival inks, 100% cotton rag paper unless noted
+ Signed + numbered certificate of authenticity included
+ Handcrafted custom-framing is available

Our quoted dimensions are for the size of paper containing the images, not the printed image itself. We do not alter the aspect ratio, nor do we crop or resize the artists’ originals. All of our prints have a minimum border of .5 inches to allow for framing.

Medium:

Innova Fibaprint Warm Cotton Gloss

Edition Structure:
10"x8" | edition of 10
14"x11" | edition of 250
20"x16" | edition of 50
30"x24" | edition of 20
40"x30" | edition of 5

Berenice Abbott

Berenice Abbott was an American photographer best known for her black and white photography of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s. Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio. She attended the Ohio State University, but left in early 1918. Abbott went to Europe in 1921, spending two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. In addition to her work in the visual arts, Abbott published poetry in the experimental literary journal transition. Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray, looking for somebody who knew nothing about photography and thus would do as he... Read More
said, hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. In 1926, she had her first solo exhibition (in the gallery Au Sacre du Printemps) and started her own studio on the rue du Bac. In early 1929, Abbott visited New York and was struck by its photographic potential. She moved to the city and began work on her New York project, which she worked on independently until 1935, when she was hired by the Federal Art Project as a project supervisor for her Changing New York project. She continued to take the photographs of the city, but she had assistants to help her both in the field and in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York.
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